‘Growth Spurt’ Has Belmont School Budget Bursting at the Seams

With just three months left in the fiscal year, it appears the Belmont School District will likely finish the fiscal swimming in a pool of red ink.

In a report highlighting the district’s third quarter financial status, Director of Finance and Administration Anthony DiCologero reported the Belmont’s schools are running an $220,000 deficit for the fiscal 2014 budget, which is $44.3 million excluding state and federal grants.

“There has been unanticipated events that began in the summer” resulting in the financial shortfall, said DiCologero, which Belmont School Committee member Kevin Cunningham said is caused by “a growth spurt” within the district since the bulk of the new expenses are directly related to a continued influx of students into the already brimming district.

According to DiCologero, approximately $450,000 of additional funds were spent on hiring 18 FTE (full-time equivalent) positions – many aides – to fill gaps in the system created by an increase of more than 100 students into the system.

An additional amount – not yet calculated – went to direct students services in Special Education as the actual amount spent in fiscal ’14 far outpaced what was anticipated at the beginning of the fiscal year in July, 2013.

“This continues to be a [line item] in flux,” said DiCologero.

On other unanticipated costs, the need to install a new exhaust system at the High School’s Higginbottom Pool required the expenditure of $50,000.

In addition to higher expenses, the district missed out on opportunity savings when an oil feeder pipe burst in the basement of the High School. This has delayed switching the final of the three heating burners from oil to natural gas, resulting in lost savings in the energy account, said DiCologero.

According to Belmont School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Kingston, the deficit will be resolved with a request of $200,000 from the town’s reserve account as well as clamping down on hirings – each most be reviewed by Kingston and DiCologero before being approved this fiscal year – while also restricting spending on supplies, material and services. In addition, facility maintenance and repairs will be limited.

While the ’14 fiscal budget needs a shot of cash to finish the year, the pending fiscal year 2015 budget – which the School Committee will hold a public meeting and discuss before approving on May 13 – which stands at $46.2 million is in balance.

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